Published on 1 Apr 2017
During our trip to France we visited the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Monument in Romagne. The cemetery contains the largest number of American military dead in Europe and was already dedicated when the war was still raging in Europe.
April 2, 2017
In an article about security incident response automation, Bruce Schneier provides a useful thumbnail sketch of a US Army attempt to dispel the fog of war in real time:
While this is a laudable goal, there’s a fundamental problem with doing this in the short term. You can only automate what you’re certain about, and there is still an enormous amount of uncertainty in cybersecurity. Automation has its place in incident response, but the focus needs to be on making the people effective, not on replacing them security orchestration, not automation.
This isn’t just a choice of words — it’s a difference in philosophy. The US military went through this in the 1990s. What was called the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) was supposed to change how warfare was fought. Satellites, drones and battlefield sensors were supposed to give commanders unprecedented information about what was going on, while networked soldiers and weaponry would enable troops to coordinate to a degree never before possible. In short, the traditional fog of war would be replaced by perfect information, providing certainty instead of uncertainty. They, too, believed certainty would fuel automation and, in many circumstances, allow technology to replace people.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way. The US learned in Afghanistan and Iraq that there are a lot of holes in both its collection and coordination systems. Drones have their place, but they can’t replace ground troops. The advances from the RMA brought with them some enormous advantages, especially against militaries that didn’t have access to the same technologies, but never resulted in certainty. Uncertainty still rules the battlefield, and soldiers on the ground are still the only effective way to control a region of territory.
But along the way, we learned a lot about how the feeling of certainty affects military thinking. Last month, I attended a lecture on the topic by H.R. McMaster. This was before he became President Trump’s national security advisor-designate. Then, he was the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center. His lecture touched on many topics, but at one point he talked about the failure of the RMA. He confirmed that military strategists mistakenly believed that data would give them certainty. But he took this change in thinking further, outlining the ways this belief in certainty had repercussions in how military strategists thought about modern conflict.
McMaster’s observations are directly relevant to Internet security incident response. We too have been led to believe that data will give us certainty, and we are making the same mistakes that the military did in the 1990s. In a world of uncertainty, there’s a premium on understanding, because commanders need to figure out what’s going on. In a world of certainty, knowing what’s going on becomes a simple matter of data collection.
Published on 23 Sep 2014
Scene from season 2, episode 8.
… in what kind of culinary culture could a product advertise itself, apparently with success, as a Whopper? The answer, of course, is crude and childish. We are almost back to the stage of some of the Stone Age tribes of New Guinea, who, at a feast, eat so much pig meat that they die of acute protein poisoning afterward. Except that we do not have their excuse of living in conditions of food insecurity in which the possibility of feast is very uncommon. Increasingly in our supermarkets it is difficult to find small portions of anything, which is a paradox because more and more of us are living alone and therefore need small portions. But once you have bought more than you need it is tempting to eat it because not to do so seems a waste, though in fact it is just as wasteful, and bad for your health to boot, to eat more than you need or even want as it is to throw it away. We need more self-control in matters of food consumption than ever before, unfortunately just as self-control has been derided as an inherently oppressive or even ridiculous notion.
Not long ago I read a book by Dr. Robert Lustig about the evils of sugar. It was abominably written but came, persuasively enough, to the conclusion that John Yudkin, a professor of nutritional science, came to 40 years ago or more: namely that sugar was the root of all evil (Yudkin’s famous, but also neglected, book had the splendid title Pure, White and Deadly).
Lustig blamed the food companies and government farming subsidies for the epidemic of type 2 diabetes (they are, of course, guilty as charged), but never the people themselves. This is because it is nowadays regarded as proper to blame only the rich and powerful for anything and never “ordinary” people, including the fat: Though where the sins of the rich and powerful come from then becomes a little mysterious unless it is assumed that they are a caste biologically apart from the rest of humanity. However, Lustig does relate the story of a young mother who gave her child a gallon of orange juice a day, with the natural result that the child soon came to resemble a prize pig at Blandings Castle. To explain her strange child-rearing practices the mother told Lustig that the government said that orange juice was good for children, from which she concluded that the more the better. Against stupidity the gods themselves, let alone mere government public health departments, struggle in vain, though in extenuation it must be entered that Linus Pauling, one of the few men ever to win two Nobel Prizes, believed more or less the same thing, and that heroic doses of vitamin C were the path if not quite to immortality, at least to much increased longevity. (I don’t want to sound like an American liberal, but honesty compels me to admit that it will now be very difficult for the fat boy raised on orange juice ever to lose weight, and I doubt that he will ever be slender.)
Theodore Dalrymple, “Gluttons for Punishment”, Taki’s Magazine, 2015-07-25.